Category Archives: Farm

Good news (and a bit of bad)

Buffalo Girl and her happy calf

Buffalo Girl and her happy calf

Good news! Buffalo Girl delivered a healthy, long-legged heifer calf last week! I was concerned she might struggle to nurse…and we believe she did…but she is looking good now. She, along with the rest of the babies, is running her mama crazy. We love watching them frolic across the fields.

Speaking of fields, the good news is that we had 3 1/2 inches of rain in 3 days. The bad news is that we haven’t had any rain since. So, our rather sparse pastures are a bit greener but still sparse! We have 4 bales of hay left. Hopefully that will be enough.

Speaking of enough, we finally made the sad trip down to the blueberry fields. Georgia lost 80% of their blueberry crop to the cold snap. We lost about the same. But we should have enough to refill the freezer and share a bit with friends.

Much sadder is the serious damage done to the persimmon trees because we lost two years of growth and this years crop. The mulberry and mayhaw crops are also a complete loss but we may have some pears and some citrus. As John says, thank goodness our future does not depend on this year’s harvest! If it did, things would look bad indeed.

I forgot to mention that John bought me a little house for Christmas. I have moved out of the Avion and into my new digs. It is definitely a splurge–the Avion worked just fine–but I struggled to keep it organized since everything had to be stowed away. What is shocking is how much stuff was stowed! I had no real idea of how much storage I had until I took all my materials out from their various nooks and crannies. So, now the Avion is on Craigslist. I hope a really good new owner finds it!¬†http://lakecity.craigslist.org/rvs/6090817213.html

So, life goes on. The sun shines and the weather is beautiful (though not as beautiful as rain!) The watermelon and bean seeds have sprouted. The bees are beginning to find some flowers. We are all healthy. The lark’s on the wing, the morning dew’s pearled; God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world. ūüėČ

Tiny House, cont.

It’s been a crazy month since the last blog. We have been steadily working on the tiny house/room as we also button things up for the cPicture of painted and roofed tiny room.oming winter. Now the blueberry fields are mowed (NOT forever) and we have started the annual weeding. The citrus is covered with shade cloth and the lights are out. The nativity scene is set up and the Christmas tree decorated. AND, the exterior of the tiny room is completed (except for the windows and door which will be installed after we move it into place.)

Amanda, John, and I have done the painting. The roof and trim turned out to be a MUCHtrimroof bigger project than we thought it would be but it is also finished. And, overall, we have been very lucky (blessed!) Though windy weather kept us off the roof for a week, when it died down we had a perfectly cool and slightly overcast day to install that shiny metal. And, we have had many things work out so nicely that could easily have been a problem. For example, John finished the base for the outside shower (cypress walls to be added lshowerater.) He used some old bleacher metal we had and it fit perfectly in the space.

Now that we are done with the exterior, our attention turns to the inside. As soon as the (inside) half-bath walls are up, we are moving the tiny room to its permanent home next to the screenroom. And then, when we finish, we will have our tinyhousewarming party. YEAH!!

Tiny House Raising

Yesterday was an absolutely glorious day! The temperature and humidity were perfect for working and there was a nice breeze. Even better, a wonderful group of people came out to help us raise the walls on our tiny room–the “bunkhouse” we are building here on the farm.

We started the day putting the final touches on preparations. I baked the cinnamon rolls and biscuits, John double checked supplies and uncovered everything. Amanda carried things out to the screen room.The wall comes up. At 9, Eric arrived and by 9:30 Brian, Mike, Randy, and Eric were ready to see a wall go up. The plan was to wait for a full complement of folks–in case something went “south”–but there was no holding all that energy back. By 9:45, one wall wwallraise4as already up.

It was great to see and we were very lucky but I must admit that I struggled to let go of the juggernaut. I wanted group pictures, and order, and control. I wanted to doublecheck and verify and plan each move. What I got was weeks worth of labor and effort in one fell swoop! It was terrifying and absolutely wonderful. Thank you Wayne for the cosmic 2×4 upside the head! As usual, you were right.wallraiseb

I appreciate everyone who participated: Eric, Randy, Mike, and Brian for taking the lead. Walter and Tom for being willing to step back and spearhead preparation of the vapor barrier. Nancy and Dale for jumping in and seeing potential issues and solutions. Wayne and Lei Lani for the literal and figurative foundation (and the gWaiting in the wingsreat snacks!)  Thank you David for taking time  from little Philip to support our efforts. All our best wishes for his speedy recovery. Amanda, thanks for the pictures though I admit to struggling to get on board with the au courant but dangerously odd angles. Deb and Khrys for being the first folks to volunteer and Carol, Julie, and Maddie for being there in the wings ready and waiting to jump in as you were needed. Sometimes that is the hardest job of all.the cars

By 2 pm, it was over.

Several times as John and Amanda and I were cleaning up, I looked out at what a half day had wrought. It is so wonderful to have this little building that is imbued with love and community. You guys are the best!!¬† And this is where I would have put the group picture–if I had one!! ūüėČ

Randy Madison being an angel

…..An angel?!

Still here…

October. It is our first cool day–50’s last night and a high in the 70’s today. It is truly a glorious day to be outside!

So, the news. First, we have a new calf. Her name is Autumn and she was born a week and a half ago to Buffalo Girl. It has been good for the herd..they missed having a “young-un.”¬† Buffalo Girl is extremely leery of us. She has definitely implicated us in the loss of her “baby” which we sold in August. We know that her heifer, along with Midge’s bull calf, went to a family who wanted a pet that eats grass but they could have just as easily gone to the slaughterhouse so we can’t take credit for the happy ending.

Our big project now is a “tiny room.” We decided to build it rather than the tiny house for¬†¬†trailer for our tiny house several reasons..not the least of which is that it is quicker and cheaper. Our tiny room is 7.5 feet by 17.5 feet and is a bedroom and 1/2 bath. We will use it for guest quarters and breathing space. We are using salvaged materials whenever possible. The trailer is a home-made one bought from Wayne Davis. It is not beautiful but IS sound. (In subsequent pictures, note how well the decking cleaned up.) The wood for the walls was milled here on the farm. The windows were given to us by the gentleman who bought my mom’s park model RV. The door was salvaged from our river place. We have to wood cut and labeled for the two long walls and have built the window sections. John Lacefield working on tiny house roomWe are finishing up the decking. It is our hope to have a work session on December 31 when we will lift the walls into place.

We had hoped to interest Amanda in our project..partly because she will be benefiting from it but mostly because there are many useful skills that can be learned when building something. She has told us she prefers hands-on learning so we had hoped to give her an opportunity to use math, physics, biology, and problem-solving skills. Amanda Lacefield and Pooh BearHowever, so far she prefers not to be involved. We must be satisfied with the participation of her kitten, Pooh Bear.Pooh Bear helps on Lacefield Farms

I will try to post pictures as the project continues but I make no promises! I do not have a good track record when it comes to diaries and blogs. ūüôā

Farming Life

I have been thinking a lot about philosophies of farming–the spiritual aspect of the choices we make when we farm.

In corporate farming, the philosophy seems to be to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. On a small farm where abandoning the land is not an option, that philosophy makes no sense. However, that does not mean all small farms have the same philosophy but it does mean small farms “get” each other and have a common bond."Agriculture is our wisest pursuit..."

Our philosophy on our farm is an evolving thing but now, after over 20 years in the biz, I think our philosophy has a bit more form and shape. First, we acknowledge that most of the work we do will not benefit us. John says quite often, “We are making a darn nice farm for some young couple.” And there is nothing wrong with that. As a boomer myself, I am well aware how my generation has taken and taken without giving much back. This is a way to give back.

Second, for us farming is about having faith. It is about believing that there is a reason and a plan. It is about trusting that each “plague” has a cure. It is about waiting that extra day, despite the temptation to throw chemicals and money at the problem, and being visited by dragonflies (they are called “mosquito hawks” for a reason!) and by bugs that love a weed and a rain that turns parched plants into nutrition-rich healthy foods.

Third (and finally) it is about the joy and satisfaction that comes from a hard day’s work and an honest sweat. It is about staying connected to the cycle of nature. It is about finding yourself and figuring out what really matters.

So, I thank God for the life I am blessed to live and the farm for helping me believe in abundance instead of scarcity. May the life you are living bring you equal joy.

Brrrr!

Boys staying warm

three cat night!

It’s cold out so I am using the weather as an excuse to get caught up on indoor chores! Speaking of the weather, the poor blueberry farmers north of us in S. GA may lose their crop. This is the challenge of trying to be first-to-market–these early varieties cannot deal with the cold snaps we occasionally get.

Amanda staying warm So, what are we up to these days? Well, with me working off-farm and time taken out¬†for the¬†care and feeding¬†of Amanda’s, a lot of farm opportunities are on the back burner. But John is excited to be working on our tiny house.

Tiny House Frame

Tiny House Step 1!

He has put together the frame he bought from Matt and the wheels he was able to scavenge for a total of $300. Not too bad for an 8×24 foundation. I will try to give periodic updates but now more than ever, time gets away from me.

State of the farm…well, we are hoping our hay will last until the warm weather and grass are here but it is going to be close. John is adding a line fence to increase our pasture. Several hens are roosting–this cold may kill some of the embryos but we expect to get a few. About 2/3’s of the pears are in FULL bloom so our pear crop may be iffy. However, the late varieties should be fine. Only the climax blueberries are blooming (the heritage varieties have the sense to wait!) Wood cut on farm Meanwhile, John was using the cooler (but not COLD) weather to do projects like cutting lumber on his sawmill. He has quite a stash now! As we often say around here, things could be worse.:-)

Blueberry Field Day

This Saturday, June 28th from 7am to 1pm we will be offering u-pick organic blueberries for $1 per quart!! That is $4 per gallon!! 

If you love organic blueberries–to freeze, for jam, blueberry pies or tarts, or to eat by the handfuls–this is your day.

This spring we had abundant rain and no late freeze. Now the blueberries are abundant and ripening daily but the bridge north of us (between CR135 and CR6) is CLOSED so our faithful customers to the north can’t get to us easily. That misfortune can be your good fortune if you are willing to make the trip out via White Springs.
We have small picking containers. Just bring a container to take them home.
We recommend a box of quart freezer bags (available at Dollar General.) Bag them as you pick for blueberries that are pre-measured and packaged ready for the fridge or freezer!
John eating berries

All our blueberries are rigorously taste-tested.

Blueberries!!

The blueberries are ripening and ready to pick! We have been picking in the morning when everything is fresh and cool. Because many of the bushes are heritage varieties grown for their taste (rather than their “earliness”), we like to gather from¬†several different bushes so that we have a selection of favors (sweet, tart, complex, mellow) and textures (nearly seedless, high in fiber, thin skinned). We then enjoy those fresh blueberries with our breakfast. Somehow everything feels right with the world when there is such abundance.

I will try to remember to bring my camera on my next trip so I can share a picture or two.

The fruits of our labor

The spring rains, while tough on the tomatoes, were a real blessing for the fruits. We had our first harvestable crop of Mayhaws (a massive 3 pints) and it looks like a bumper crop of blueberries will be ripe for the u-pick folks in June and July. We actually picked a blackberry today–about a week ahead of usual–and should have more very soon. And all this with no irrigation, no weird genetically modified plants, and no herbicides (just old-fashioned human hard work!)Blueberries, mayhaws, and blackberries, oh my!

Page 6 of Archives (most current)

Lacefield Farms Blog
Sunday, 2 March 2014
Lots of news!
Mood:  energetic
I tried several times in February to post to the blog but something has been up with Tripod–our server. Today I am trying again. Hopefully this time will be successful because I have a lot of stuff to share!

First, recent stuff! We are striving to find balance in the greenhouse. It has been very cold at night (thirties) but the strong March sun means the daytime greenhouse temps are high. Even with supplemental heat, the cold was too much for our poor little pepper starts.  However, the ladybugs have been happy with the warm days and are doing their part to organically and sustainably keep aphids out of the transplants. Thank you dearest bugs!

Oh shoot–tripod is still weird! I can’t upload the great ladybug pic. Back to tech support!


Posted by Roberta or John at 1:40 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 15 April 2014 6:29 PM EDT
Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Sustainable Ag defined
This article resonated with me because it fits my understanding of sustainable agriculture–living within the natural cycles of life.http://foodtank.com/news/2014/01/sustainable-agriculture-often-debated-rarely-understood


Posted by Roberta or John at 9:34 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 2 March 2014 3:17 PM EST
Saturday, 4 January 2014
Ohhh..!
Mood:  bright

Now I know why the lettuce seeds never sprouted!!

scooter the cat sleeping in the lettuce bed


Posted by Roberta or John at 3:36 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 4 January 2014 3:44 PM EST
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Community

It’s been a great month! We have accomplished a lot: fence-building, working on kitchen 2 and the river place, and weeding and mulching in preparation for springtime growth. But what has been really great is that we have had opportunities to meet some wonderful members of the community of North Florida farmers.First, there are Lisa and Walker–owners of¬†Sweet Lil Wee Farms. We attended their open house and found in them two kindred spirits–two people who have had other life options but are choosing the life of a farmer and understand the challenges of farming. We look forward to sharing our experiences and learning from them.

Then, there is Debbie Driggers of¬†Delta Shamrock Farms. She bought Wester, our littlest bull, because she breeds mini-minis. She was looking for a mini-bull for her little herd of Dexters and mini-Herefords and Wester was perfect. We were relieved to not have to butcher him–though that still leaves Easter–a last bull calf from this year for us to butcher.

Meeting fellow farmers like these–folks who understand the joys and pain of farming–is such a powerful blessing. We are very thankful for them.


Posted by Roberta or John at 6:53 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 15 December 2013 7:27 PM EST
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Modernist Cooking
Mood:  incredulous

As I mentioned, I am taking an online course in molecular gastronomy. It is a Harvard University class (so now can¬†I say I “attended” Harvard?!) It has given me an opportunity to wrestle with my Chemistry demon (left over from high school chemistry class which was NOT a friend of mine!) I am hoping to improve the texture of my breads which due to the high concentration of whole grains and fiber are not as light as I would like.

pictures of bread

Ready for the oven!

So, why the blog entry? Well, this week we are working on “modernist” cooking–better cooking through chemistry. I would say this is the antithesis of what we stand for at Lacefield Farms if it were not for the fact that in the class they mention that baking powder is a human/chemically engineered product–a product I have obliviously used for years! I haven’t gotten very far into it yet but the “previews” indicate the instructor will argue that these manufactured ingredients are healthier than using sugar. We will see. Stay tuned for more.


Posted by Roberta or John at 12:30 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 15 December 2013 6:52 PM EST
Friday, 11 October 2013
Oh no…

Well, it has happened again–I’ve gone over a month without blogging! So, I give up. It will happen when it happens. Sorry Eric!My latest adventure is a free online cooking class hosted by Harvard University as part of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC.) I’m really enjoying it.¬†The class¬†is called “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.” There is a lot of math in it (which I am loving) and also a lot of chemistry (not loving so much.) This is only my first week but I am learning a lot.¬†rsl

The picture you see is me checking the calibration of my stove. We did this by putting a 1/2 Tablespoon of sugar in our preheated ovens (set at 350) and then checking the sugar after 15 minutes. If it hadn’t melted, we were supposed to raise the temp 10 degrees (or, in the case of my analog stove, 25 degrees) and check again after 15 minutes. We were to¬†repeat this process¬†until the sugar melted.¬†Since sugar always melts at 366 degrees, it should melt in a properly calibrated stove between 360 and 370 (or 350 and 375.) I am happy to report my old, beat-up, worn-out stove did just fine. The fancy new one in the processing room however…

I had previously taken a solar energy class but I couldn’t handle the technical aspects–it was pretty hardcore. If you haven’t taken a free online class, check out¬†MOOC-List for a lot of great stuff. I’m thinking I’ll try a literature class next. ūüôā

 


Posted by Roberta or John at 11:23 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 11 October 2013 11:47 AM EDT
Monday, 26 August 2013
Eric
Mood:  chatty
Our friend Eric has told me he routinely reads our blog but he gives me a hard time about the amount of time that passes between posts. So, I made a promise to myself that this month I would try to post more often. Nearly every day I have had an idea for a posting–thoughts on the¬†webworm caterpillars¬†defoliating our trees (who knew this American native is a European invasive!), the epiphany that happened as I was destroying a paper wasp nest (THEY¬†FEED CATERPILLARS TO THEIR YOUNG!!), the pineapples
that are ripening in the greenhouse (if the webworm caterpillars don’t eat them first!!), the nature of cattle, fences,¬†the subtle changes in the weather (have you been feeling those fall breezes?)–there is always something to write about. This is partly because many of the jobs on a farm lend themselves to meditations on life–weeding, or working on fences, or starting seeds in the greenhouse, or walking back from the pasture. Having something to think about is not the problem. So, what is? I don’t know–remembering to actually do the posting?! :-)Today I remembered so here’s my latest entry–for Eric. (Hi Eric!)

We didn’t have much of a pear crop this year because we had a cold snap after most of the pear trees had just blossomed. Only the late bloomers (like the¬†Kieffers and Orients) had a yield and it was not a big one. However, Deb and Khrys’s tree is next to their house so that warmth followed by the intermittent rains means they have a LOT of pears. When they offered to share their bounty, we jumped at the chance.

When we got home, the work began–deciding what to do with them!! We need to conserve freezer space because come fall, we will have chicken and beef to put in it. I thought about canning them but neither of us like canned foods. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the canning is done by a corporation or a family member. My grandmother and mother both canned and while I loved the spiced peaches, I don’t like the “dead” taste that seems to come from the high heat required of canning. It is as if all the energy has been destroyed. So, what to do with these pears.

Well, this year I have been doing a TON of dehydrating. I’ve done tomatoes (which I then used in breads, crackers, and soups), blueberries (a quart of blueberries shrinks down to less than a cup!), grapes, figs (dehydrating changes them from something John won’t eat to something he enjoys–and it’s a LOT less work than making fig newtons!), and our small crop of apples and pears. So, my first thought was to dehydrate these pears as well. Then Deb mentioned¬†fruit leather¬†. She also loaned me some trays to make it easier, suggested adding nuts (for protein), recommended keeping the mixture as dry as possible (to dehydrate quicker), and showed me how she removes the pear from the core rather than the core from the pear (HUGE timesaver!!) So, I was on a mission!

fruitleatherWell, I LOVE the fruit leather!! It tastes a bit like a really healthy gummy bear. I made up several recipes. For all of them, I first cooked the pears. (These are, after all, good ole Florida sand pears!) Besides, I wanted to keep the skins of these beautiful organic pears for the fiber and nutrients. Cooking makes the skins softer and more enjoyable to eat.

I knew I wanted a little bit of sugar, but not much, so for one batch I¬†blended in some of¬†Marie’s famous Mayhaw jelly. Although I admit it doesn’t look that great before it is dried (it’s the up-chuck looking goo¬†on the right side of the picture) but when it is dry, the colors and the taste become more concentrated. YUM!!

I also made a batch with my berry jam (see earlier post)¬†and a batch with herbs from the garden (cardamom leaves, holy basil)¬†and some¬†ginger. There were still some cooked pears left over so I put them in some canning jars in the fridge. I didn’t process them but we can get them eaten in the next few days. We love¬†fruit in the morning with our fresh eggs and home-made bread.
Now, I am nearly done with the day–just waiting on the current batch of bread and cinnamon rolls¬†to do¬†their final rise before I put them in the oven. As I sit here, it finally occurs to me why I don’t get around to doing more of these posts–I’m tired! But Eric, you are worth it. ūüôā


Posted by Roberta or John at 3:18 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 August 2013 5:08 PM EDT
Saturday, 10 August 2013
Synchronicity
Mood:¬†¬†d’oh
Do you have those synchronous moments when seemingly random events collide? That happened to me recently with the idea of invasives.First, week before last we were busy battling¬†centipede grass.¬†It has invaded some of our pastures. This is a problem because it stays short–too short for the cattle to eat it. Therefore, a pasture can be full of grass and yet the cows go hungry. Ironically, we intentionally introduced this plant onto the farm because of its tolerance for low Ph and poor soils. We would love to have this grass in our front yard because it saves energy since it does not need to be mowed regularly–something we do with the Bahia because of my allergies. So, we rented a sodcutter, cut the centipede sod in the pasture, cut the bahia sod in the front yard, and switched. Now we will see what happens.

Next, one night last week I saw a sweet big-eyed tree frog in the fig tree eating my figs. I let it be–it was truly beautiful. The next day I searched the internet to identify it. Turns out it was a¬†Cuban tree frog–an invasive. Turns out there is a professor who has his research assistants working on projects to do away with this cuban invader. (Check out the instructions on how to gas the little bugger:¬†http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/cuban_treefrog_inFL.shtml¬†)

Finally, with my mom I attended ¬†a presentation on native plants. As part of the display there was a book called “Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives.” I’ve been reading that book and it is changing the way I think about invasives because it makes a strong argument that invasives are natural and are very useful to our soil and our earth.

Actually, my thinking about invasives initially was challenged when Boots and I attempted to make a garden for the Administrative Offices of the park. The park administrator at that time wanted us to use only native plants. This led us to a conundrum–how far do you go back in a plant’s history to determine if it is native?! Even corn–that quintessential native plant food–has only been a native for 8000 years! So, where do you draw the line? We ended up dropping the project because we were unable to decide what qualified as native!

My thinking was also challenged when I found out that the “invasive” African bees (killer bees) are much stronger than the European bees (that ironically we call “native”) and so are able to withstand hive collapse.

And then there are the cowbirds which do such a great job of eating the hornflies off our cows and cleaning the grasshoppers out of our fields. The story is that these immigrants came over from Africa on the backs of a hurricane.

So, this is what was on my mind yesterday when John and I were watching a video on ¬†hay-less winter grazing. It is a recording of a gentleman in Crescent City, FL who is grazing his 200 head of cattle year-round. He a native of Mexico and is using many of the things that have been working for him on his ranch there. One of his strategies is to plant¬†Mimosa¬†and¬†Honey Locust¬†in his fields. Both are considered invasives but both are legumes which means as “nitrogen-fixers” they are medicine for the soil. (More information:¬†http://farmprogress.com/story-valuable-silvopasture-has-edible-trees-14-98044¬†)

Although I have relatives who moved to this continent in the 1600’s, many people would consider me an invasive. Just today I was called a Yankee and told that “GD Yankees are the ones who won’t go home.” I guess that means I am most definitely an invasive. Perhaps that is what makes me so tolerant of my fellow invasives on our farm.


Posted by Roberta or John at 6:34 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 10 August 2013 8:46 PM EDT
Imperfection
Our ideas about food have become a bit skewed and off. For example, we have been trained to believe perfection translates into flavor. We often seek the best looking and biggest fruits and vegetables because we think they will be the tastiest and healthiest. We overlook the small and blemished because we believe them to be inferior–in food and in life. By doing so, we are missing out. 


Posted by Roberta or John at 6:41 AM EDT
Sunday, 23 June 2013
Experimenting
Mood:  energetic
One of the challenges we have is finding ways to preserve the goodness of fresh foods so we can enjoy them in the off seasons. We freeze, can, and dry fruits and¬†vegetables. I also make preserves. The problem is that while¬†I love jams and preserves, I don’t like all that sugar. However, without sugar, you get syrup.
chiaseedjamSo, I tried something suggested by Diane, my nephew’s fiance. Diane gave me some Chia seeds and suggested I use them as a thickener. I only knew Chia as the “hair” on a chia pet so I was surprised when she recommended them but I am very happy with the results. Here is what I did.

I cooked 3 cups of fresh blackberries in their own juice for 5 minutes (long enough to incorporate 3 T of Mexican cane sugar) and then put the mix through a Foley foodmill to remove some of the seeds. Next, I added 3 T of Chia seeds. This yielded a full pint of jam with just enough extra to eat now! As you can see in the picture, the extra jam looks wonderful on a piece of homemade bread. It also tastes great because the Chia adds bulk without overwhelming the flavor of the berries in the way that sugar does. Thanks Diane!


Posted by Roberta or John at 1:19 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 June 2013 1:45 PM EDT

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